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Fantasy Football drafts have been taking place for weeks and mine are fast approaching as well. Not only do you need to take into account the factors of a team’s offense and defense, but also strength of schedule, injury history, and anything else you could imagine.
However, let’s not forget about factors that are beyond our realm of control. Supernatural factors that no fantasy expert or scientist could predict. Yes, it is time once again to revisit…THE MADDEN CURSE (cue scary music).
Last year, I commented on Brett Favre’s appearnce on the cover of Madden ’09 and I also documented every Madden cover athlete since 1999. Needless to say, being on the cover is a recipe for bad luck.
Now, for the first time in the history of the franchise, there will be two, count ’em TWO athletes on the cover of a Madden game. Madden NFL ’10 will feature Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu and Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald. Most fantasy leagues don’t have IDP’s (individual defensive players), so Polamalu is not a heavy focus in the fantasy world. However, due to his appearance on the Madden cover, I am staying away from Larry Fitzgerald.
This is a grey area with a lot of people. While it is true that 2008 was not Favre’s worst season statistically, he was a big letdown and did not live up to anybody’s hype. Favre led the NFL in interceptions with 22 and threw for 217 yds per game (3rd lowest total of career). The 22 TD passes were good for 9th best in the NFL, but that number is an illusion. Six of those 22 came in one game (Week 4, Arizona) and after that, Favre only threw 10 TD passes in the remaining 12 games including 18 INT’s during that time. That’s horrible production!
Outside of fantasy, Favre blew it down the stretch. With three teams (Jets, Pats, Dolphins) battling for the AFC East, all Favre had to do was bring the team to 12 wins and they were in the playoffs. Instead, Favre lost four of the last five games and threw 2 TD and 8 INT in those games.
The last game of the season was against the Dolphins. The winner won the AFC East and made the playoffs. It was kind of ironic that Favre and the Jets lost to the Dolphins and Chad Pennington. Yeah, Chad Pennington, the guy that the Jets booted from New York and replaced with the “better and stronger” Brett Favre. Pennington just turned the Dolphins from a 1-15 team in 2007 to an 11-5 team (and winners of the AFC east) in 2008. Oh, and Favre’s terrible performance down the stretch got Eric Mangini fired.
If that isn’t cursed, then I don’t know what is.
Now, I am not denying that Fitzgerald is the best WR in the NFL. I am just being skeptical due to the Madden Curse. Why shouldn’t I be? The Madden Curse has claimed the careers of players like: Eddie George, Daunte Culpepper, Shaun Alexander, and Vince Young. Am I saying that Fitzgerald will do a complete 180 and become one of the worst WR’s in the game in 2009? No, of course not. I do expect a dip in production though.
No, I don’t mean a dip in production because last season, Fitzy set career-highs in receiving yds and TD’s, I mean he will dip significantly enough to make you wonder if the Madden Curse is real.
Fitzgerald will have Kurt Warner throwing to him. Warner will be 38 at the start of the season and he can’t keep this production up forever. In the ’08 season, Warner won the starting job in camp over Matt Leinart and produced his bets season since his MVP year with the Rams in 2001. Warner’s 4,583 yds were the second highest total of his career and he set a career-high in completions with 401.
What if Warner goes down with injury? Do you really expect Matt Leinart to step in and produce the way Warner did last season? No freakin’ way.
Can we expect an aging QB to stay healthy and just keep throwing on every play for another 16 games? Even if he does, Warner really doesn’t have any other options at WR…
Still unhappy about not getting a new contract, Boldin’s situation is up in the air. Will he sit out during the season and remain unhappy? It is uncertain at this point, but if Boldin sits, then Fitzgerald will be the only option at WR for Warner.
Yes, Steve Breaston (1,003 yds, 3 TD) was an admirable WR last season, but can he step up to be a #2 if Boldin holds out? If not, the opposing defenses will catch on quickly and many, many more double teams will be in store for Fitzgerald.
What running game? The Cardinals were the worst rushing team in the NFL with 73.6 rush yds per game led by Edgerrin James’ 514 yds. Rookie Tim Hightower proved to be a redzone threat with 10 rushing TD’s. The goal-line is one thing, but Arizona can’t move the ball with a ground attack at all.
Well, Edge is gone and Arizona drafted rookie Chris Wells from Ohio State in the first round (31st overall). He will split carries with Tim Hightower and may even become the featured back in Arizona seeing as Hightower is useless away from the goal-line with a 2.8 yds per carry last season.
Then again, seeing how Arizona has finished in the bottom five in rushing offense in the last four season (worst in the NFL in ’08 and ’05), don’t expect a 1,000 yd rusher to emerge from Arizona this season.
The aging QB, possibility of no WR support, and a terrible ground game points to a dropoff in production for Larry Fitzgerald. Those factors aside, I am not having Fitzgerald on any of my teams solely because he is on the Madden cover. I am sorry for being so superstitious. But come on, superstitions are a huge part of sports, so why not make them a huge part of fantasy sports?
Fitzgerald is currently slated to be drafted in the first round of Yahoo! drafts (8th overall). Usually, a first round WR never lives up to your expectations and I don’t expect this season to be any different.
I don’t know what it will take for the curse to be “justified”, but if he doesn’t put up typical Fitzgerald-esque numbers, then the debating will begin. All we can do is sit back and watch the events unfold.
Either way, I am not touching Fitzgerald this season.